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Summary:

It’s Friday and we know what that means boys and girls. Time for another look at the week in Mobile Tech Manor. This is one of those weeks when I can’t believe it’s almost over already. This week I went from four phone carriers to two.

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It’s Friday and we know what that means boys and girls. Time for another look at the week in Mobile Tech Manor. This is one of those weeks that it’s hard to believe it’s almost over already. It seems as if yesterday was Monday, which is a good thing. I have long lamented the fact that I have cell phones on all four major U.S. carriers, especially the part where I pay for them. I recently dropped one of the four (T-Mobile) and this week I dropped Verizon. It’s the first time in a decade I have no Verizon service, and it feels a bit strange. When I wasn’t dropping carriers I was testing a bunch of apps for the iPad and have been impressed with how fast developers are updating their apps to improve them and add features. Come on in and let’s gab about the week.

Big Red Down

I didn’t just drop my Verizon cell phone, I also dropped the data line I’ve had for years. It was attached to the MiFi but since I signed up with Sprint and bought the Overdrive I didn’t need Verizon any longer. This move will save me a nice chunk of change each month and I’m happy I did it. I now have a voice line and the data line on Sprint, along with the iPhone line on AT&T.

This has me down to just two smartphones, the iPhone 3G and the Palm Pre. I’m still quite happy with both of them truth be told, even with all of the fine phones on the market. I’ll say one thing, I am so anxious to get my hands on the Sprint EVO to give it a test, so if you’re listening Sprint… Seriously, the EVO has all of the hardware greatness of the HD2 I tested a while back but adds 4G on top of it. How can a geek resist that? Summer can’t get here fast enough (release date for the EVO).

iPad Update(s)

My past experience with many tablet computers made it clear to me that I would find the iPad useful. The slim, light form factor coupled with a mobile OS that is made from the ground up to be a tablet OS would make for a useful device; I said that more than once prior to the launch of the iPad. Even so, I am surprised how much I am using the iPad. I find I use it more every day.

It’s not just the newness of the device, it has more to do with how useful the iPad is becoming the more I use it. I wondered how limited I would find the device for real tasks; I shouldn’t have wondered as I am finding it more than adequate to do just about everything I do with a computer of any kind. I find I grab it and just do things, which sounds a bit trite but it’s the truth. I don’t think about doing things — I just do them.

There are many things that I am growing to prefer doing on the iPad over other devices. I attribute that to both the comfort factor and the enjoyment I get from doing them on the iPad. Using the iPad is as simple as picking up a magazine and leafing through it. It has become a window into the world, but one I can interact with effortlessly. It’s hard for folks who’ve never used an iPad for any length of time to understand.

I’ve been impressed with how often iPad app developers are updating their apps. I check two or three times a day for updates, and usually find one. Apps are getting fixes and new features that are sometimes impressive. Many apps get simple updates that turn out to provide major usage benefits. This was the case with an update to SugarSync.

I use SugarSync to keep my files in sync across multiple computers, and to provide access to those files on the iPad using the free app. It worked well, but got much better after the update this week. The developers added a way to open spreadsheet, documents and presentations directly in Numbers, Pages and Keynote on the iPad. I just tap a document in the SugarSync app and then hit a button to open it for editing. It’s easy, useful and clean. The edited file has to be emailed to the SugarSync account to get updated in the cloud but it’s not a big deal. Hopefully, they’ll add a “sync up” function in a future update to eliminate this extra step.

I am constantly trying new apps for the iPad. Here’s a list of my most-used apps (right now):

  • Twitterific
  • NewsRack
  • Kindle for iPad
  • Tweetdeck
  • WordPress
  • Remember the Milk (iPhone version)
  • iWorks (Pages, Numbers, Keynote)
  • LogMeIn Ignition
  • SugarSync
  • Speed Test (iPhone version)

I am starting to test Dragon Dictation, and already see it can be a useful way to get text into the iPad via speech. I need to spend some time with it to get good at using it, and to determine the best practices for speaking text into various programs.

LogMeIn Ignition is working so well on the iPad that I find myself doing more and more with it. I can be controlling another computer in just seconds, so I am jumping on to do single tasks when I need to without putting it off. It is so powerful, and turns the iPad into a full Windows PC or Mac. It is the killer app for the iPad for me, without question. I keep getting asked how bad the lag is when controlling another computer, and truthfully there is almost no lag whatsoever. I guess I need to shoot a short video showing how well this works so others can understand this.

I admit I’ve gotten hooked on The Pinball HD, a fantastic game on the iPad. The sound and graphics are top-notch, and the way the game fluidly changes the viewing angle during the action is very well done. It is so addictive that I have to restrict myself to playing it when I have free time.

I’ve also started playing Red Alert: Command and Conquer and it’s pretty fun. The control interface is easy for most things but a little clunky for others, but otherwise it’s fun.

I have deliberately avoided getting Scrabble for the iPad. I love Scrabble and am sure I will waste far too much time playing it once I get it for the iPad. I’m sure I’ll break down and get it at some point but I’ve been strong enough so far.

Cool Stuff on the Web

I don’t always find stuff on the web that is cool enough to share, but this week I found two videos that must be watched. The first video was recorded during a baseball game between Florida Atlantic and Western Kentucky. There was an extended rain delay and the players for both schools got bored and then creative. The four minute video showing how these guys relieved the boredom is priceless.

I took my iPad over to my Mom’s house right after I got it, and was impressed that when I handed it to her she started using it right away. She had previously refused to even touch a computer, but the simple slate form didn’t intimidate her and she used it as soon as she grabbed it. The second cool video this week was recorded when an iPad was handed to 99 year-old Virginia. It was also her first time to ever touch a computer, and to watch her happily using the iPad is pure joy. She even writes limericks using her iPad. Great stuff.

e-Book of the Week

The e-book I am reading this week is the newest Stephen King novel, Under the Dome. It’s a great story told as only King can tell it. A mysterious force field-like dome suddenly appears over a small town in Maine, cutting it off from the rest of the world as no one can enter or leave through the translucent dome. I can barely wait to see where this story goes. It’s a testament to how much I like Stephen King’s work — it’s the most expensive e-book I’ve ever bought ($17).

Wrap-up

That’s the week as it happened in Mobile Tech Manor. I hope you enjoyed sharing it with me and if you have any questions about anything you’ve read here just leave a comment. I enjoy hearing from you.

  1. I used a HD 2 for about a week. I loved the hardware but even the apps that came with it would crash frequently. It didn’t run smoothly for all that horsepower and I have to blame WinMo for that because Sense on my wife’s Droid Eris runs great. The phone went back and I got a Pre Plus for the free 3G hotspot feature. Impressions are the hotspot is a little slow but usable, the Pre hardware kinda of meh, but love webOS.

  2. James, here are a couple of my most-used iPad apps that are worth testing if you haven’t had a look yet. Both got updates just yesterday that fixed the most annoying problems:

    Office2 HD (was called Office2 Pro before yesterday’s update) is basically a Pages/Numbers replacement that allows you to work directly with Google Docs (open/save on the iPad work exactly as they should) as well as opening and editing Word/Excel files stored in MobileMe, Box.net, and other WebDAV stores. (I use an private WebDAV server for secure client documents, so this is a big help to me.)

    Instapaper is a real productivity enhancement. You install a bookmark in all your Web browsers, including Safari on the iPad, and then flag pages for later reading. The Web pages are reformatted and stripped of ads and downloaded to the iPad. During the day, instead of having my work interrupted by reading a long Wall Street Journal article when it catches my eye, I tag it for reading later when it’s more convenient.

    1. Good finds. I actually do use Instapaper but haven’t gotten into using it that much yet. I’ll keep looking at it, though.

  3. Great insight on the iPad James! I would love to get one but I’m kind of the typical broke college student at this point. I have played with one at Best Buy and you better believe that if I had the money in my account, I’d have taken 1 of those suckers home on launch day. How do you like the onscreen keyboard on the iPad? My very short time playing with it, I found it a bit awkward but I think I could get used to it.

    1. It definitely takes some getting used to but I was surprised how fast that happens. I can type pretty handily on it.

    2. Wow, we’re so much alike. :)

      I too, tested the iPad at bestbuy and am a broke college student. Not only that but I also would have bought it on launch day if I had the money. the only thing I noticed was that it was a bit heavy. But, seeing as I’ve never used a tablet device, (except for the iPad ;) ) It may take some time to get used to the weight.

      Btw James, that shake weight was just… wrong, lol… :)

      Have a good one, peeps!

  4. Richard O. Jones Friday, April 23, 2010

    A while ago, you mentioned that you have a large collection of eReader e-books. Have you found a way to read them on the iPad?

    1. I use the iPhone eReader app. It’s not optimal but OK til they release an iPad app.

  5. I read Under the Dome about a month ago. It was very long and took quite a while to read, but the end is quite interesting. You’ll like it, I think!

  6. James, I respect your opinion, but it is clear to me that none of your work involves photo and video. I find the iPad to be a useless device. I fail to understand why so many bloggers seem to think that it’s a great device. To clarify, the iPad OS was not made from the ground up to be a tablet OS, it was made to be a Phone OS. On the iPhone, the OS works well, because I can realistically only use one app at a time on a 4″ screen. On a 9″ screen, I might want to use more than one app at a time, but even with the upcoming OS 4.0, I won’t realistically be able to see more than one app at a time. In my opinion Apple is making the exact same error that MS did with their tablets. Instead of designing an OS from the ground up for a tablet, they stuck their existing frontrunner OS on a tablet. I won’t be interested in the tablet form factor until someone makes a tablet that is truly designed with the end user in mind.

    The MS Courier concept looks interesting, but it needs to be more flexible, needs to work with both a stylus, finger, and on onscreen keyboard, and most importantly it needs to work on one screen device as well as two screen devices. In the end it’s still a concept, and although MS has been on a roll lately, there is a good chance they will mess this up.

    Android OS is probably the closest of the mobile OS’s that can be used as a tablet OS, but unless Google builds a better experience, it’s not going to work.

  7. Richard Garrett Friday, April 23, 2010

    James I thought you had contracts with each of the big 4 to facilitate device testing. What is your process now? Do the carriers send you network enabled devices? If so, do you wonder if they might somehow be optimized as compared to off-the-shelf units? Also, what most influenced your decision to keep Sprint and drop VZW? My guess is 4G but perhaps there is more to the story…

    1. Carriers or phone OEMs send evaluation phones with service activated or I don’t test them. They could possibly by optimized, but it would end up shooting the company in the foot and I don’t believe any phone I’ve been sent was not a commercial version.

      The rollout of 4G in Houston was the sole reason I dropped VZW for Sprint. I suppose I’ll look at VZW again when LTE rolls out in my area.

  8. I suggest Penultimate. The on screen keyboard works. The Apple Wireless Keyboard works even better. But when it comes to taking notes nothing beats writing them down and this app makes it work on the iPad. It bumped Stick It Notes off my home bar and I now find myself whipping out the iPad to jot down random thoughts as well as taking notes in meetings.

    The nice lady at the Sprint store tried to up-sell me on phone service when I bought the Overdrive. I whipped out my Nexus One and she told me I’d be back for the EVO this summer. We’ll see! :-)

  9. James,
    When you’re using LogMeIn Ignition, can you use a bluetooth mouse while you’re also using a bluetooth keyboard?

    I know you can’t use a decent stylus, but you should at least be able to use a bluetooth mouse. Wouldn’t it be essential, since the desktop Windows and Mac OS’s are not geared for fingers?

    1. You cannot use a mouse, but you don’t need one. The LogMeIn Ignition interface is touch optimized, and you control either Windows or OS X (or any other OS) fully by touch. The mouse cursor operates with precision, and you can hover, click, right-click and click and drag with ease, all my touch. It works very well.

  10. James, I am so glad you continue to write your notes about MTM! I can hardly immagine you pondered dropping this piece some time ago – for me it often is the most valuable part of jkontherun. Thanks for your impressions on the iPad apps: mine will arrive this week and I will install most of what you recommended.

    1. Thanks! The MTM column is my favorite thing to do each week. I’m glad you like it.

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